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The Juniper Hills Park natural area has been Frisbee'd over

County should have protected area

To the Editor,

Many years ago, a park was created just east of Madras called Juniper Hills Park. Baseball diamonds, soccer fields, playgrounds and at the east end of the park were the very hills that gave Juniper Hills Park its name.

When this park was platted, the master plan, published in the Madras Pioneer, called for the east end of the park, everywhere east of the old creek bed, to be designated a natural area. An area set aside for future generations to experience a small part of a virgin upland juniper forest. This area had never been trampled by cattle, or overgrazed by sheep. An area in which the natural bunch grass still stood four feet tall! An area where man had not used up this very rare piece of Mother Nature.

In the years since the opening of this park, I and many other citizens of Jefferson County, have enjoyed walking, running, hiking the trails, and communing with nature. I have shared the nature trails with deer, coyote, rabbit, squirrel, and filed mice in what was once a natural area. Yes, I said was once. This spring, when the hills were lush, green, and are their most beautiful, I witnessed the death of a natural area.

A natural area is some place where no development is allowed. It is supposed to be left natural. But some time ago, the county court allowed a Frisbee golf course to be built on the edge of the natural area. A nine-hole course that only took a small part of an area that was not supposed to be developed, and mostly used the fringe of the natural area. I and the other users of this part of the public property let it slide because the game is fun (I sometimes play myself), and it did not intrude too far into the natural area. But all that has changed; the nine-hole course, with its nine T-pads, large dugout flat spots from which you throw your Frisbee, has grown to some 27 T-pads that intrude deep into what was once the natural area!

This past Earth Day, I was greeted by massive burned out holes all over what was once the natural area. The Frisbee Golf Club has taken it upon themselves to create fairways for their golf courses, yes, golf courses! Once there was only this little nine-hole course, but it has grown to over three times its original size (there are enough T-pads for three golf courses), and they have taken over, nearly two-thirds of the natural area! They have gone to denuding the land, taking any bush or tree that is not rooted and growing, piling it into large piles and burning these piles in the middle of park property! Now the Juniper Hills that gave this park its name, looks like a war zone!

Anyone who has walked this area has seen what fire can do to the landscape. It has been years since the lightning-caused fire on the back side of the hills burned, and it still has not recovered from the ravages of that fire. Now we have more big black scars to look at, scars that will take from three to five years before anything can grow in these burned out holes.

Is this the fault of the Frisbee Golf Club? Partly yes, as they are the ones who are developing the area, but I see the fault as not so much the Frisbee Golf Club's fault, but the fault of the people ultimately responsible for the area, the county! For not informing the Frisbee Golf Club of the area's designation, and not following up on what is being done to county property. It is sad to see that any special interest group, the Frisbee Golf Club included, be allowed to do as it pleases to county property, without any oversight from the county. However, who is at fault is not the point, the point is that the damage has already been done. Now instead of having a natural area for our children, and their children's children, we have a Frisbee golf megaplex that has forever changed the land, the animal habitat, and the ecosystem that the animals depended on for their survival.

Yes, this spring, I sadly got to witness the death of a natural area. No longer can we bring our grandchildren out to see a piece of virgin upland juniper forest, it no longer exists. Those of advanced years, or those of us who are disabled who take solace from Mother Nature, have lost another place to man's continual desire to bend the land to his will. You can't even walk the nature trails much anymore without the fear of getting hit by a Frisbee, or seeing the empty beer cans left in the most creative of places.

The Juniper Hills Natural area is gone. It has been developed. Sorry Mother Nature … sorry.

Orval Prince

Madras

Contract Publishing

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